Blarney Group's Freda Hayes honoured at IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards

After 50 years in the industry, she is receiving a lifetime achievement award at tonight's ceremony...

Freda Hayes, CEO of The Blarney Group, is set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the 2016 IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards in Dublin this evening.

Now being presented for the third year, the prestigious gong is selected by the editors and directors of IMAGE Publications.

Former RTÉ Authority chair and Wilson Hartnell PR founding partner Mary Finan received the accolade in 2015, with Primark group director Breege O'Donoghue getting it in the inaugural year.

As CEO of The Blarney Group, Freda Hayes oversees the development of two iconic Irish brands: Blarney Woollen Mills and Meadows & Byrne. The group employs more than 500 people between three Blarney Woollen Mills stores and 13 Meadows & Byrne stores throughout Ireland (the most recent of which opens this weekend in Castletroy, Limerick).

The Blarney Group also runs two online stores to support these individual brands.

Freda has been involved in the retail business for half a century. At the age of 16, she left school to work with her father, the late Christy Kelleher, to run a small thatched cottage on wheels outside the gates of Blarney Castle. This mobile shop sold crafts to the tourists visiting the area and was to be Freda’s first step into the world of retail.

Freda is a fellow of the Irish Management Institute and has sat on many boards throughout hercareer – CTT (The Irish Export), Hibernian Insurance, Aer Rianta, UCC and others. She was awarded Business Woman of the Year by Veuve Clicquot in 1988. She is married to Colin and has one son, Ronan.

Clodagh Edwards, CEO of IMAGE Publications, said:

“We are delighted to present our most prestigious honour, the IMAGE Lifetime Achievement Award, to Freda on November 21st.

As longtime devotees of both Meadows & Byrne, and Blarney Woollen Mills, Irish women have grown up to be shaped by Freda’s exciting vision and taste. This, coupled with her business acumen and  abundant energy makes Freda an exemplary pioneer and role model.”

The award will be presented to Freda Hayes by Ann Reihill, director at IMAGE Publications and chair of the IMAGE Businesswoman of  the Year Awards panel.